No-one is unemployable, argues rapporteur Yonnec Polet.
With nearly 6 million Europeans who have been actively seeking employment for at least a year, long-term unemployment has a significant social impact. Its high cost to society would be offset by providing unemployed people with decent jobs at local level, the European Committee of the Regions underlines in an opinion drafted by Yonnec Polet (BE/PES), Deputy Mayor of Berchem-Sainte-Agathe. The opinion, which was adopted at the plenary session on 25 May, calls for the European Commission to take stock of the success of the Youth Guarantee, to earmark some ESF+ funds for local "zero long-term unemployment" initiatives and to set up ad hoc fund to combat long-term unemployment.
The longer one is unemployed, the harder it becomes to reintegrate into the labour market. Combatting long-term unemployment is thus crucial to ensure social cohesion and avoid marginalising part of the population. The "zero long-term unemployment" approach builds on the principle that no one is unemployable when jobs are tailored to people's abilities and skills. Long-term unemployed people take part on a voluntary basis and are paid at least the minimum wage.
With their knowledge on the local labour market and links with local businesses and local social partners, cities and regions are best placed to set up schemes that benefit local economic players and expand the range of available services while preventing any competition with existing activities. As a model, rapporteur Yonnec Polet mentions the "Zero long-term unemployment territories" project implemented in 54 French territories since 2016 and similar initiatives that have been carried out in Belgium (Wallonia), the Netherlands (Groningen), Austria (Gramatneusiedl) and Germany (Berlin).
Regions and cities highlight the role of the European Social Fund (ESF+) as a source of funding for "zero long-term unemployment" projects and suggest that some ESF+ funds should be earmarked for such initiatives. Lessons can be learned from the success of the Youth Guarantee, in particular as regards the individualised approach taken towards jobseekers.
"Although all Member States are confronted with long-term unemployment, there has been no European initiative to combat it since a 2016 Council Recommendation. Local and regional authorities should be empowered to put in place schemes based on the key principles of the 'zero long-term unemployment areas'. The idea is to redirect the cost of unemployment towards the creation of decent jobs, with decent wages, and involving social or green services in the local communities. This is why we call on the Commission to set up an ad hoc fund to combat long-term unemployment, providing at least EUR 750 million in funding over five years, as it was done with the Youth Employment Initiative", rapporteur Yonnec Polet said.
Intervening at the plenary session, MEP Aurore Lalucq (FR/S&D) said: “France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy: Everywhere in Europe, we have seen the development of zero long-term unemployment initiatives. Of course, all of these experiments don’t have the same models or methods, but they all follow the same basic principles that are: no-one is unemployable, there is no lack of work and there is no lack of money. What we need now is to start building a real network at the European level, to help build a coalition, exchange best practices and disseminate those initiatives all across Europe. What we need is to scale up these initiatives to provide the necessary jobs in the care sector and the ecological transition.“
In June, the European Commission is expected to present a proposal for a Council recommendation on developing framework conditions for the social economy. Regions and cities are hoping that this proposal will facilitate access to EU funding for social and solidarity-based enterprises involved in combating long-term unemployment, including funding earmarked for social investment and skills under the InvestEU fund.
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